It seems the world's wealth is migrating east—if not in sheer volume, then in sheer numbers.
Although just one ridiculously wealthy Asian appeared in the top 10 of a new list of global billionaires released this week, Asia boasted a total of 608 billionaires to North America's 440 and Europe's 324, apparently ousting North America from its perch for the first time.
The list, compiled by China-based luxury magazine publisher Hurun Report, featured 1,453 people worldwide with personal wealth of $1 billion or more as of January. The combined wealth of the world's billionaires amounts to a staggering $5.5 trillion, the report noted, equivalent to the gross domestic product of China,
While Asia had the most billionaires overall, the United States led the rankings by country with 409 billionaires—more than 28 percent of the world's stock of the super-rich. China followed close behind, with 317 of its nationals able to claim the title of billionaire. Russia was a distant third with 88 billionaire residents, but its capital city Moscow had the heaviest concentration of the wildly wealthy at 76—6 billionaires more than New York City.
But even with almost 1,500 billionaires running around the globe, more are probably out there according to Rupert Hoogewerf, chairman and chief researcher of Hurun Report.
"For every billionaire that Hurun Report has found, I estimate we have missed at least two, meaning that today there are probably 4000 billionaires in the world," Hoogewerf said in a statement.
Hoogewerf credited real estate as the biggest driver of wealth accumulation in Asia, with massive urbanization efforts in China and India propelling an increasing number of businesspeople into billionaire-dom. Telecommunications, media and technology, and retail were also big sources of wealth.
Despite Asia usurping North America as home to the most billionaires, there were some aspects about the world's wealthiest that remained the same. Mexican national Carlos Slim retained his title as the richest man on the planet with a $66 billion fortune at his disposal. Other notable names included investing tycoon Warren Buffett with a $58 billion fortune, and retail chain Zara founder Amancio Ortega of Spain, whose swollen coffers grew by $23 billion to a total of $55 billion.
Here's a closer look at some of Asia's richest residents:
1. Li Ka-Shing (China)
China's richest man, the 85-year-old Hong Kong-based tycoon has amassed a fortune of $32 billion through ventures in real estate, construction, and banking.
2. Alwaleed Bin Talal Alsaud (Saudi Arabia)
Business tycoon, investor, and member of the Saudi royal family, he holds $29 billion in personal assets.
3. Lee Shau Kee (China)
A Hong Kong-based real estate developer, Lee Shau Kee is worth $23 billion.
4. Mukesh Ambani (India)
Ambani is chairman and CEO of Indian energy conglomerate Reliance Industries, a position that has helped him accumulate more than $20 billion in personal wealth.
5. Thomas and Raymond Kowk (China)
The brothers head up their family's Hong Kong-based real estate company, rumored to be Asia's most valuable real estate firm. They are worth $20 billion.
6. Alisher Usmanov (Russia)
Once Russia's richest man according to Forbes, Usmanov has amassed a $19 billion personal fortune as the majority owner of Russian mobile operator MegaFon.